In Blackboard there are three different types of columns that you will be able to see and/or create for your grade center. They are:
- Automatic columns – these are created automatically by blackboard assessment tools. Tests, Assignments, and Surveys automatically create columns when they are created/deployed. Discussion Boards, Journals, Blogs, and Wikis have the option to have a column created only if grading is turned on.
- Manual Columns – these columns are created by the user and have no link to any BB tool. These columns should only be used when necessary.
- Calculated Columns – these columns create calculated numbers in Blackboard and cannot be manually overridden.
This blog article is going to cover how to create the WEIGHTED TOTAL calculation column.
What is a Weighted Total?
A weighted total is a grade calculation that assigns percentage (ie, weight) to individual items or categories (groups of items) within your Blackboard Grade Center. Using weighted totals allows for convenience and flexibility when grading because it allows you to assign greater importance to specific categories/assignments based on their weight (ie, the higher percentage that you assign, the more important that category/assignment will be to the student’s overall grade).
3 Easy Steps to Creating A Weighted Grade Center By Category
One question that we get frequently is “How do I create a weighted grade center?” Weighted grade centers can be created by weighting individual columns (which can be time consuming if you have A LOT of columns), weighting categories (much easier to do, less time consuming, and more flexible), or a combination of weighting individual columns and categories together (this is something probably a bit more specialized and for unique situations). For the sake of simplicity, we always recommend using the WEIGHT BY CATEGORY option. You will find that it is the easiest to set up and also the easiest to maintain. Below are three easy steps that you can use to create your weighted grade center by category!
Step 1: Create Your Categories
In your course in Blackboard, go to Control Panel –> Grade Center –> Full Grade Center. From the options at the top, select Manage –> Categories.
On the categories page, click on the Create Category button to start creating your categories.
Recommendation: It is recommended that you create your own categories (rather than using Blackboard’s default categories) and it is recommended that you use a * in front of each category name. Doing this will group your categories together and make them easier to identify when they’ve been assigned in the Column Organization area.
When you get done creating your categories, you should have a category line for each category you have listed in your syllabus in the grading area.
Step 2: Assign Weights to Your Categories
In the Full Grade Center view, click on Create Calculated Column –> Weighted Column.
Give your column a name (this is required). It is recommended that you include the word “weighted” in there somewhere so that you and your students know it is a weighted column. Popular names for this column include “weighted total”, “course weighted grade”, “weighted grade score” etc. Also, make sure that you leave the primary display setting as PERCENT.
Scroll towards the bottom of this screen until you reach the area called SELECT COLUMNS. Because you have categories that you want to add weight to, you are going to use the box in the bottom-left corner called “Categories to Select”. Highlight all of your created categories by holding down CTRL on your keyboard and clicking each category name (they should be easy to locate and all grouped together if you followed the recommendation of adding a special character at the beginning of the name, as shown below) and use the “>” icon to MOVE those categories to the empty box on the right side of the screen.
Once your categories are on the right side, type the appropriate category weight (percentage) into the box located by the category name. Make sure that the percentage matches what you are telling students in your syllabus! By default all categories are weighted equally. This means that the category IGNORES any points associated to the assignments within the category and gives an equal weight divided among all assignments. We recommend that for simplicity purposes that you leave your category weighting on “Equally” when first setting up. And if you want to know the true difference between how different a grade can be when a category is weighted equally or proportionately, see PART 2 of this blog post about how weighted grades are calculated.
Make sure that when you are done assigning your category weights that the total weight is 100%! Click SUBMIT to create the weighted total column.
After setting up your weights, you’ll notice an area below the box that refers to a “Running Total”. It is important for you to know WHAT a running total is and how it affects the grade that your students see.
- If you select YES on Running Total, Blackboard will exempt all cells that don’t contain data (ie, assignments where students have not submitted anything yet and where you have not given them a grade will not have an impact on their overall grade). It is very important if you choose to use this option that you always record a “0” when a student hasn’t submitted their work. Without the zero, blackboard ignores the assignment completely and calculates the student’s score based on only submitted/graded work (which could give student’s the false impression that they are doing better in the class than they actually are if they are skipping assignments!).
- If you select NO on Running Total, the student’s overall grade is calculated to include ALL grade center columns regardless of whether they contain grades or not. Any grade center column that has not had work submitted to it or has not had an instructor grade assigned to it is automatically calculated into the student’s overall score as a 0. We normally do not recommend that instructors use this option because the result can make student’s grades appear artificially low (especially early in the course when there is very little grade history at all). Running total at NO means that students are essentially starting at 0%, and working their way up towards 100% with each new assignment that they submit.
We recommend that you leave Running Total set on YES.
Make sure to click SUBMIT when you are done creating your column so that it saves the column and all your changes!
Step 3: Put your Assignments into Categories
In the Full Grade Center view, go to Manage –> Column Organization.
On the Column Organization page, locate all assignment columns that belong to the same category and place a check mark on the left side beside their name.
At the top-left or bottom-left of the Column Organization page, locate the Change Category To option and find your custom-created category to assign to your selected assignments.
Repeat the process above until all of your columns have one of your categories assigned to them. You can see when you’re done by looking at the “Category” column.
NOTE: Calculated columns CAN NOT have their category changed. If you need to apply weight to a calculated column, you will need to add it to the weighting individually as a column rather than as part of a category.
Want to know the math behind how weighted grades are calculated? Look for PART 2 of the Weighted Grade Center … coming soon!